Andrew Rodriguez Betancourt has felt the growing pains of starting over—multiple times over.
Originally from Venezuela, Andrew was pursuing a degree in Engineering there when civil unrest in the country compelled him to join his mom in Florida. He soon discovered his credits wouldn’t transfer in the U.S., so he had to restart his college education from scratch, taking basic requirement classes at an Orlando community college while working as a server and bartender. His eventual goal was to transfer to the University of Central Florida (UCF) and rekindle his original major. But then COVID hit, he was let go from his job, and Andrew found himself set back once again.
“I was definitely frustrated, because it was going to take me that much longer to be financially ready for a bachelor’s at UCF,” he says. “At that point, I wanted a faster way to get started on that STEM career I had been chasing for years.”
In exploring his next steps, Andrew discovered the UCF Coding Boot Camp. The program’s intensive full-time, four-month cohort option appealed to him, as did the notion of attending a boot camp from a university he trusted and planned to enroll in for his undergraduate degree. Back in Venezuela, he had taught himself basic website design for various freelance projects. But he knew the boot camp could give him deeper exposure to both front-end and back-end programming skills, keeping his career prospects as flexible as possible.
“The boot camp felt like my best next move, because it promised to teach me a ton of different technologies,” he says. “Plus, it was great cost-wise, it would help me build up my skills quicker, and it was online so I could hopefully keep working somewhere.”
Though the pandemic kept Andrew from finding new employment right away, the extra time at home enabled him to focus all of his energies on the boot camp and ultimately achieve the results he was hoping for.
Teaching Himself How to Learn Something New
“Nearly every single thing I learned in the boot camp has transferred to the jobs I got after completing it,” says Andrew, reflecting on his cohort experience. “The curriculum helps you see how one programming language connects to others so that you can pick them up faster each time. With other classes I’ve taken, the technologies they teach are barely being used anymore. But the boot camp gives you the day-to-day basics you’ll use in a real job today. And it opens your mind to be able to teach yourself how to learn something new.”
Beyond praising the curriculum that focuses on relevant, real-world skills, Andrew also compliments his instructor. “He had lots of energy and his personality was great,” Andrew says. “He knew we were learning some pretty heavy concepts, so he always made sure we were having fun along the way. For one group assignment, he let us create whatever kind of app we wanted. My team developed a food and wine pairing tool. The projects got us excited to work together and apply what we learned.”
For Andrew, one of the boot camp’s most impactful aspects was its expansive Career Engagement Network. He appreciated how much time his career advisor spent helping him become “not just employer ready but employer competitive.”
“He gave me guidance on my resume and cover letter, directed me to a bunch of free career webinars, and gave me lots of tips for applying to jobs,” Andrew recalls. “After interviews, we’d talk through what I did right and what I could’ve done better. He also encouraged me to start a new project right after the boot camp, so I could keep my skills fresh. That was invaluable advice.”
Upon graduating, Andrew recommended the boot camp to one of his friends, who wound up as enthusiastic about the program as he was. He was also invited to a webinar of his own to offer inspiration to other boot camp learners.
“I flat-out told other students that if you’re not utilizing the career services, you’re not doing the full boot camp,” he says.
Steady Employment and a Bachelor’s Program at Last
Soon after the boot camp, Andrew landed a remote part-time contract as a website coordinator for a nonprofit in St. Louis. “They were building farmers’ markets to help small businesses in the area,” he says. “They liked my boot camp portfolio, so they hired me to design a new website for their project. Then they completely rebranded, so I built another four sites. It was great experience and I was helping people, which really fueled my passion. I still do work for them from time to time.”
With the stability of a new job, Andrew was finally able to transfer to UCF and begin taking classes toward a Computer Science degree. He found that the boot camp offered benefits for his new learning journey, too.
“Having that prior knowledge has helped me tremendously with my bachelor’s,” he explains. “Like, I’m taking an object-oriented class right now, which is basically Java with Bootstrap. I see other students struggling, but I can handle it. The boot camp gives you confidence in your abilities, which spills into other areas of your life. Last year, my wife and I bought a school bus and turned it into an RV (see photos below). Neither of us had prior experience in building anything but I was like, ‘We can totally do this!’”
And the success kept coming. A year into his work with the nonprofit, Andrew landed another remote job—this time as a full-time software engineer for a payroll services company in Winter Park, Florida.
“They hired me for my full-stack skills but also wanted to train me on specific software they have, which is a database program that uses SQL heavily and also some Java,” he explains. “The work I do now involves taxes and deductions and moves faster every day—but I’m keeping up, making good money, and continuing to use the skills I learned in the boot camp.”
The Confidence—and Skills—to Dream Even Bigger
Down the road short-term, Andrew likes the idea of working for a marketing agency, where he could focus more on interactive website design and connect with a variety of clients. “I’d love to design for, like, a football team one day and a cool clothing brand the next,” he muses. “But seriously, I think challenging myself with different projects makes me an even more capable and marketable person.”
More long-term, Andrew envisions a career in tech project management or consulting. “I want to be a key part of those strategic discussions,” he says. “The educational and professional experience I’ve gained from the boot camp has opened up a lot of opportunities that can turn into leadership positions someday. In the meantime, I just keep telling people that if you want to make a positive change in your life, a boot camp is one of the best ways to do it.”